Posted On 08 Nov 2017
After losing his Father to an auto immune disease at the age of 25, Michael Shynes decided to honor his Dad’s legacy by chasing the dreams he had put off for so long. At that time he was working at a residential treatment center for teens, and playing the occasional show on the weekend. “It was important work, and shaped who I am today in a lot of ways. But after 3 years I just got tired of getting beat up, spit on, and called everything you can imagine. I loved those kids though, and wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.”
So he moved back home to keep costs down while trying to become a full time musician. “It worked out well because I didn’t want to think of my Mom being alone in the house after my Dad’s passing. But by the same token it felt like a lateral move being back in my childhood home. I had many an existential crisis during that time.” So Shynes began playing every show that he possibly could, and as time went on, he was able to pay all his bills (and student loans) with an acoustic guitar. “Paying rent every month by writing and performing songs was pretty surreal, and the harder I worked, the better the gigs got.”
Shynes would often get noticed as a strong local candidate to open up for National acts as they came through town, and even ended up on a tour with Platinum Recording Artist Howie Day. “That really taught me a lot because I was playing for theaters full of people who were not there to see me. But I was telling the stories and playing my songs, and everyone was listening. That was a landmark experience.”
Now Shynes has worked to become one of the most sought after acoustic performers and songwriters in the Midwest. He has an ability to blend shades of multiple genres over an acoustic landscape, and his songs are ripe with lyrical depth rarely paired with mainstream appeal. “The thing that seems to separate Shynes is unquestionably his voice and phrasing. With a range and falsetto that is nothing short of captivating, his acoustic finger picking style acts as the perfect bed of warmth on which his soulful lyrics can rest.”
Learn more about Michael Shynes in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What’s a song you are loving these days? What music instantly lifts you out of a bad mood?
It finds me in my winter jacket for the first time as Minnesota is starting to cool down. I am in love with the fall season, but it precedes the dreaded winter season. So I am content for now. There is music in the background, as I am currently mixing a cover collaboration between myself and singer Maygen Lacey. We are arranging a duet of “Something Just Like This” by Coldplay and The Chainsmokers. I really have a soft spot for that style of pop music, and it has been fun to arrange it acoustically. In terms of what lifts me out of a bad mood, generally its just anything that seems genuine and authentic. A lot of the heart has gone out of music these days with the way it is being produced, so anything that preserves the human element is good by me.
Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year? What have been some of the highlights for you this year? What are you excited for in 2018 which will be here before we all know it?!
I did, because I have a new little boy that is now a year old in addition to my daughter who is 5 and just started kindergarten. I recently went through a stretch of 87 shows in 90 days that made me profoundly depressed and overworked. So I have recommitted myself to the avenues of music that I love. And I am trying to work smarter, not harder in an effort to avoid burning out. My new little guy and putting together a new full length album have definitely been the highlights. Also the calm that has come over me. I have felt frantic in music for a long time so its good to feel settled and within myself.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there ever a time where you thought about doing something completely different? What do you think it finally was that pushed you to this career?
Growing up I definitely wanted to be a professional athlete. Almost all of my spare time was spent playing sports with my older brothers. And I was obsessed with my favorite players and their statistics. Which probably annoyed everyone I came in contact with at that stage. My earliest musical memory was probably just searching around my parents old piano in our living room and trying to play songs by ear. And also those same older brothers telling me to quiet down when I was singing or playing too loud. Once I found music, there was definitely an unspoken marriage there. I would say that I always made plans for if things didn’t work out, so I would still be able to support myself and have a place to live, but I never really desired anything else once I fell in love with writing and performing songs. The final push just came from having a family to support. Once I had to make enough money for my family to buy groceries and have the things they needed, it kicked me into another gear and I had my mission statement.
I always like to know how a particular city has influenced an artist. How do you think your hometown has affected the kind of music that you are making today? How has your current city influenced your music?
I think it has made my music very down to earth and easy to approach. There is a lot of warmth and desire to connect with others that is present in the mid-west. We really long for a sense of community. So I’ve always wanted to tell my stories, and then have them resonate with the people I surround myself with. As far as my hometown, it was very small, so it was never competitive in the way that it could have been in a bigger city. It enabled me to slowly search for my voice as opposed to chasing others musically. Which I’m grateful for because I think an important thing to have is a unique sound that isn’t everywhere in terms of breaking through the clutter.
I would love to more about what it was like for you after your dad died and you were finally able to make a living as a musician? Had your dad gotten to hear some of the music that you were performing at that point?
My Dad was my biggest fan. They actually found CDs of mine in his locker at work after he passed, and that was so emotional for me. He was never the one to push that I needed to give up music and chase a more traditional career path. He just loved me unconditionally, and what was important to me was important to him. When I would come home from college my Dad would put on a suit and play my music from the basement. He was so proud of me. He hadn’t heard my best work at that point, but I was figuring it out and he liked watching the journey. The last song I ever played for him was “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor.
How was your experience opening for national acts when they came through your town? What did you learn from them and the whole experience?
It was truly profound in terms of my development. Because up to that point there had always been family and friends out in the crowd who kind of had to support me no matter what. And in these instances a lot of times there was absolutely no one there to see me. So I needed to find a way to connect with them and hold their attention. And time after time I was finding that I could do it. And that made me feel like I had something to offer. And validated me in a way that made me never want to turn back.
What specifically about your time on Howie Day’s tour did you enjoy the most? Are you still in touch with him today?
I enjoyed the venues and the people. The crowds weren’t so big that there was constant chatter throughout my show or anything, and they were still large enough to create a huge rush of adrenaline. I also had my wife with me, and it was fun to be on the road together. I think we discovered each other in a way that we hadn’t up until that point.
What was the inspiration for your recently released single, “Cold Day in Hell”? What was it like making the video for it? How creatively involved were you with it?
My best friend in the world was done very wrong by a woman that he had only been married to for a short time. So I wrote it as an anthem for him in case he ever thought about getting back together with her. Because I knew he deserved better. The video I had almost nothing to do with. I just love hiring talented and creative people to do things, and then just letting them run wild. This was one of those instances where Joe Mackedanz created something better than I ever would have come up with in a million years. So all of the credit goes to him on that.
When do you hope to release more new music and a full-length album of new songs?
I’ll be releasing a full length of 14 tracks on November 18th at the Aster Cafe in Minneapolis with my 6 piece band.
Now that the summer is over, what was something fun that you did or tried for the first time?
Well summer was actually my 87 gigs in 90 day stretch. So I pretty much tried to kill myself via exhaustion. I don’t think I’ll try that one again..
How do you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Where do you think you are truly the happiest- on stage performing or elsewhere?
It gives me the most joy in the form of pride. Just knowing that I support my family by doing what I love, and seeing my kids get to do the things that they love as a byproduct. There is something about growing older as a man I have found a little less joy in the “fun” activities of my youth, but I have found much more meaning in things I do everyday. So its all an evolution at this point. Where I’m happiest is always when everyone in my family is home (animals included) and we are all just immersed in our various activities, but just knowing they are all safe and with me. I love the sound of that. It is sweeter than music.
Do you believe that the music being created right now will be greatly influenced by the intensely politically charged times we live in right now? How has it affected you as a musician in general?
I hope so. Music has a power and a responsibility to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. And it can help push the narrative forward for a more caring and tolerant world. It has affected mine in that I’ve just become much more aware of the suffering of others, and so I want to create music that helps ease that pain. And also to bring awareness to things that have affected me personally.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
John Mayer is the gold standard in terms of writer, musician, and performer. He would be the dream scenario. But beyond that I love the music of Jason Isbell. He is a storyteller and one of the best lyricists ever. Chris Stapleton is another. I’m not as concerned about writing hits as I am about writing timeless stories. Those guys do that.
What advice would you give to a young person who is considering becoming a musician one day?
Just to work. Take every gig you can and constantly develop your craft. Make yourself in demand by recognizing what separates you from others and then taking that to the highest possible level. Also don’t be too thin skinned and let others tear you down. Lastly, be original. Otherwise whats the point.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I just hope they feel I’m someone with a soul. Just trying to navigate through life and struggles in the same way that they are. And that for some brief moments I’m able to help them forget about any pain or hardships that may be going on at that time in their lives. An entertainer who escapes me recently said we are in the “Freedom from Concern” business, which I like. Life is hard, we can help people escape for a bit. Take them somewhere else for a while.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I would just like them to come and find me online or in person, and if they like what I had to say here, I think they’ll also like the songs. Thank you so much for having me.